Myths: The Wizard of Oz’ munchkin suicide

In Classic Hollywood Myths we take a look at all the myths about the Golden Age of Hollywood. What really happened? Are these ‘urban legends’ true or false? Classic Hollywood Central looks into it!

Myth: A munchkin on the set of The Wizard of Oz committed suicide and you can see it in the film.

Myth wizard of oz

This popular and notorious myth first came on the scene during the 80’s, when The Wizard of Oz was widely released on home video. At the end of the Tin Man scene , as Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man are heading on up the Yellow Brick Road, some viewers noticed something strange. With the invention of VHS people were able to rewind and replay the scene in question, view it in slow-motion or pause it. And in the background, in between the trees, they saw someone. This was not a regular-sized person, but a small person, who seemed to be hanging from a tree.
Quickly word spread and soon it was said that a munchkin who was part of the film had committed suicide by hanging himself from one of the prop trees. The story goes that he was driven to despair over his unrequited love for a fellow munchkin actress and decided to end it all right there on set.
Since stories of munchkin lechery and drunken misbehavior on the set had been circulating for years, the wild suicide story had some seeming background plausibility to it.

True or false?

False!
MGM – who made the film – stated that the hanging munchkin was actually a large bird from the Los Angeles Zoo, brought onto the set to give it an outdoorsy feel. Everyone involved in making the film has unwaveringly denied that anyone committed suicide on set.
Also, the forest scenes in The Wizard of Oz were filmed before the Munchkinland scenes, and thus none of the munchkin actors would yet have been present at MGM.
Since there have been many videos online claiming to show the ‘original’ munchkin suicide scene, it is safe to say that some people have gotten very creative with this myth. But rest assured that there are still original VHS tapes from the early 80’s that clearly show a bird when viewed closely.

 

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